Canterbury City Council Bill — Third Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:46 pm on 3rd December 2012.

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Photo of Lord Lucas Lord Lucas Conservative 3:46 pm, 3rd December 2012

My Lords, I am absolutely delighted to be able to praise my noble friend's committee. It is an extraordinary example of the Lords at its very best and I cheer to the echo what it says in its report. It is wonderful to see the Lords standing up for the unregarded, which is something which, when we pay attention, we do very well. I echo my noble friend's praise for Chris Bolton, who is one of the great anchors of this House. I am also going to praise the European Union, which I do not always do-it seems to me that it has got the services directive right-and I am going to praise my noble friend on the Front Bench in his role with his department, because the consultation that it has produced is a very fine example of a consultation. It is clear about what it sets out to do; it is clear about the reasons that it is adducing for that; and it is open as regards the responses that it is looking for. It clearly anticipates that people will disagree and it encourages disagreement. It is a very fine piece of work and I look forward to the legislation if it carries on in that spirit. It would have been nice, too, to be able to praise the Local Government Association, but its reaction to the consultation was immediate, negative and silly.

As the noble Lord, Lord Sugar, often reminds us, we are going through tough economic times. It looks as though those will be with us for some time to come. We really have to make it easy for people to start out in business, whether they intend to found Marks & Spencer or whether they intend just to make a living. If that is some minor inconvenience to us, we jolly well have to put with it. The high streets are difficult places to break into now. It would be very difficult for the noble Lord, Lord Sugar, to do what he did in founding a business because so many businesses are now chains. How can a little guy starting out get a chain store to take up his product? It is very difficult. A lot of the empty premises in high streets are not for rent except at very high figures because the landlords are desperate to keep up the fiction that they still have a high-value property on their hands. That makes it very difficult for people who are just starting out to obtain space on the high street. The attitude shown by the consultation and by my noble friend's committee seems to me entirely praiseworthy.

When one walks around the streets of Westminster, one sees that Westminster Council is very much in favour of sterility when it comes to its streetscape. I feel ashamed because there is so much money in Westminster and so many opportunities to start businesses. I hope that the result of the determination of my noble friend on the Front Bench's department to open up the legislation on street trading and pedlary will be that we start to see that, as a community in Westminster, we give many more people the chance to start out in life.